Tagged: Ivan Nova

Yankees Win, Always a Good Thing…

Credit: Getty Images

CC Sabathia Relishes the Role of Stopper…

Well, the last week didn’t go exactly as planned. I didn’t think the Yankees would win the three-game series in Houston but I had hoped for at least one win. They played well enough to win all three games if not for the lack of bullpen support. After Friday night’s rain-shortened loss to Eloy Jimenez and the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees had lost four consecutive games and could have been overtaken in the AL East Standings on Saturday by the Boston Red Sox, a team that has seemingly gotten off to a much worse start than our favorite team, if the Sox had won and the Yankees had not. Fortunately, CC Sabathia represented the Cavalry, arriving to save the day, while the highly paid hitless wonder known as Chris Davis helped power Baltimore past the struggling Red Sox.

It is funny how the World looks so much better after a Yankees win. Life as a Yankee fan is such a roller coaster ride at times. It was hard watching Eloy Jimenez (first two home runs of his young career) and the White Sox crush Yankee pitching during Friday night’s rain-shortened seven innings loss. Although I am sure CC Sabathia would have liked to have stayed in yesterday’s game a little longer, he combined with Domingo German, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman to shut out the White Sox, 4-0, giving the Pinstripers a very much-needed victory. Honestly, I was unsure what Sabathia would bring in his first start of his final season. Delayed by December’s Angioplasty that placed a stent in a heart valve, a five-game suspension, and a trip to the Injured List as he worked his way back into prime form, it was vintage Sabathia on Saturday. He held the White Sox to a meaningless single by second baseman Jose Rondon in the top of the third inning. It was the first and only hit the Sox would get on this day.

Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Sabathia looked strong when he struck out Wellington Castilllo looking to end the top of the fifth inning but the pitch, his 62nd, would be his last. The TV cameras showed a disappointed Sabathia in the dugout as Manager Aaron Boone informed him his day was finished. I don’t blame Boone. No reason to push Sabathia this early. His 62 pitches for the Tampa Tarpons (High-A) in a rehab start last Sunday were his season high. He probably would have been good for a few more pitches but why risk it. We need the big guy in the weeks and months ahead. With an off-day last Thursday and another tomorrow, the Yankees were able to skip the fifth spot in the rotation, making Domingo German available to provide back up support for Sabathia. It was the perfect formula. German, continued his brilliant 2019 performance with two innings of hitless relief and four strikeouts. If you looked at stats alone without names, you’d think his line belonged to the team’s ace. 3-0, 1.38 ERA, 9.69 K/9, and 1.03 BABIP. Not that Luis Severino is coming back anytime soon but if he were to return today, you’d have to argue that J.A. Happ, not German, should be the loser of a rotation spot.

Zack Britton finally delivered a relief outing that we expect to see. Three-up, three down in the top of the eighth. I know, it was just the White Sox but you would have thought they were the second coming of Harvey’s Wallbangers after Friday night. Britton had to start somewhere with a solid appearance. Saturday was as good a day as any. Now if we could just get Chad Green and Jonathan Holder back on track. I’d really like to see this so-called Super Bullpen that everyone has been talking about. I know, Dellin Betances is a major cog and his absence hurts, but the other guys need to pick up the slack. They are certainly capable of so much more.

I know I was feeling much better about Aroldis Chapman from his first pitch in the top of the ninth when the radar gun clocked his strike to Adam Engel at 99 MPH. In throwing nine pitches to finish off the game, Chappy hit 100 MPH four times. He is trending in the right direction for those fearing his loss of velocity. It was not a save situation but Chapman needed the work and he did not disappoint.

Credit: Paul J Bereswill/NY Post

Credit to White Sox starter and former Yankee Ivan Nova. Back in the stadium he was raised, he delivered as well as he could have. He faced one batter in the top of the seventh, giving up a single to Gleyber Torres. Pulled at that point, Torres would eventually score the first run for the Yankees when Luke Voit singled with the bases loaded. It was almost unfair for Nova to be charged a run on this day, but he was, thus taking the tough luck loss despite holding the Yanks to only four hits, and no runs while he was standing on the mound, over six innings and the one batter faced in the seventh. No doubt he’ll look back on the day proud that he was able to compete exceptionally well with his one-time mentor as Sabathia prepares for his ride to the Sunset and eventual placement in MLB’s Hall of Fame.

Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

With such a great pitching performance by the Yankees, the team’s offense was almost an afterthought. The Yankees needed the runs, of course, to win the game but for inning after inning, they were unable to mount any serious threat against Nova. When Nova gave up that single to Gleyber Torres in the bottom of the seventh and departed the game, it opened the door for the Yankees. It took a little luck when Greg Bird hit into a fielder’s choice at second against White Sox reliever Jace Fry. An error by Yolmer Sanchez, booting a potential double play ball, left both runners safe at first and second. After another pitching change, Clint Frazier singled to right off reliever Ryan Burr to load the bases. Luke Voit keep it going with a broken bat single past the outstretched glove of the shortstop, scoring Torres.

Credit: Kathy Willens/AP

Kyle Higashioka, getting the start at catcher in place of Austin Romine, hit a long sacrifice fly to right which brought Bird home with the second run. Tyler Wade displayed his athleticism with a rare squeeze bunt toward third that easily allowed Frazier to score. The Yankees were up, 3-0.

Aaron Judge accounted for the final Yankees run when he led off the bottom of the eighth with a short home run (a 335’ shot that took full advantage of the right field porch). Hey, a homer is a homer. Sure, we love the homers that reach the second deck, especially when Judge is at the plate, but I’ll take the short fly that lands into the first row of the right field porch any day.

Hopefully the win helps the Yankees “turn the corner” (as Aaron Boone would say). A win today to take the series against the White Sox would be ideal, considering the other Sox come to town on Tuesday. Nothing like changing our Sox on a positive note. The Houston Astros got hot at the right time last week to sweep the Yankees in their home park. It would be nice for the Yankees to do the same to the visiting Red Sox for the brief two-game series.

Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 1.47 ERA) gets the ball in the White Sox finale this afternoon. He’ll be opposed by the talented Carlos Rodon (1-2, 3.38 ERA) in what should be a great pitching matchup. I kind of wish Tanaka was pitching against the Red Sox this week, but if he can deliver a win today, that’s all we can ask.  Tuesday’s game will feature James Paxton against Chris Sale, two pitchers with high expectations who have, so far, delivered uninspiring results. Wednesday is the battle of 8.00+ ERA pitchers with J.A. Happ going against former Yank Nathan Eovaldi. I really hope Paxton and Happ were watching Sabathia pitch yesterday. They need to follow his lead. Get on a roll and the team’s slow start will be nothing but a distant memory. A nice ten-game winning streak would help warm things up for the summer ahead.

Stephen Tarpley was the loser of a spot on the 25-man roster when he was optioned to Triple A to make room for Sabathia. It meant that Joe Harvey’s stay in the Bronx will last awhile longer and rightfully so. He has only appeared in one game (one of the losses to the Astros last week) but he did his job when called upon (unlike Green and Holder). I’d like to see what he can do with an extended stay in the Show. Tarpley, on the other hand, is not quite ready. He’ll benefit from a little more seasoning in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

As always, Go Yankees…and, please, stay healthy!

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Now Available, Number 55…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Patrick McDermott)

Yankee Fans await the departure of Sonny Gray…

If you listen to the so-called Yankee GM’s on Twitter, the end of the road could be near for Sonny Gray. We know he’ll be gone by the time the guys pick up their bags to head to Tampa, Florida for Spring Training in February, but the only question is when, where and for whom.

When Sonny’s college pitching coach was on the Milwaukee Brewers coaching staff, there were lots of trade speculation with the Brewers. Now that the coach (Derek Johnson, formerly pitching coach of Vanderbilt) has moved on to the Cincinnati Reds in the same capacity, the Reds have become the “favored” trade target for the Twitter GM’s. I am sure Yankees GM Brian Cashman is talking to the Reds, as reported by the real insiders, but he’s talking with other teams too. I have no doubt Sonny Gray will perform better in a less-pressurized environment. We’ve seen it with the guys traded to Pittsburgh in recent years (most notably A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova).

When the Reds are mentioned as a Gray destination, the name of Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett repeatedly comes up. If the Yankees are successful in acquiring the left-handed bat of Gennett, it is going to take more than Sonny Gray to make it happen. Gennett is only 28 years old, and has had great numbers the last two years, but he is a free agent after the 2019 season. I’ve heard people nix the thought of trading for Arizona’s premier first baseman Paul Goldschmidt because of his impending free agency next off-season. Not sure why you’d trade a talented Gray for short-term assets. Gennett’s productive bat would slot nicely into the Yankees lineup, but I just don’t think he is part of a Gray trade unless the team is willing to let go of some top prospects too.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Jamie Sabau)

One writer mentioned 2B/SS Jeter Downs as an option but young Downs is only 20 years old and while drafted in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft (32nd pick), he has not played higher than Single A and is not ready to help in the immediate future. But, of course, you’ve got to like the name considering he was named for the Yankees future Hall of Fame shortstop. Still, I don’t see the Reds parting with one of their top prospects for Gray unless the Yankees sweeten the pot on their end.

The Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres are other teams mentioned, but there are others. While some have speculated Cashman’s return for Gray could be better than expected, I am anticipating it will be for minor league names that may or may not have heard of before. When you try to sell an asset, it’s generally not a good idea to tell the world how poorly it performs. I know that Cashman sells Gray’s upside in phone conversations with other GM’s, but he certainly has not avoided negative comments in his talks with the media. Nothing like giving a player a chip on his shoulder.

I am trying to keep expectations low for Gray’s return. I’d prefer not to see him go to a team the Yankees could potentially see in the playoffs, such as the A’s. I fully expect Gray to become the pitcher he once was when he exits the main stage in New York. He’ll also be a pitcher with an axe to grind given the disparaging words by our own general manager. While I don’t think Gray is a pitcher for the Big Apple, I won’t easily dismiss him when he is playing in another uniform. He will be a formidable foe in the future. There were some jokes that the Yankees should trade Gray to Oakland for Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo, and James Kaprielian. Regardless of where he goes, we have to be prepared that he’ll pitch more like the ace he once was in Oakland.

The next milestone date for Major League Baseball is Tuesday when MLB 40-man rosters must be set in advance of December’s Rule 5 Draft. After November 20th, additions to the 40-man roster can only be made through trades and free agent acquisitions. With Tuesday’s roster deadline, there will be a flurry of activity as teams move to protect their best Rule 5-eligible prospects. The Rule 5 Draft is held on the Thursday (final day) of the Baseball Winter Meetings which will be December 13th in Las Vegas, NV this year.

Most people are speculating the Yankees will trade Gray before they begin aggressive pursuit of other pitching options like Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ, James Paxton or Nathan Eovaldi. With its potential impact on the 40-man roster, it’s possible we could see Gray moved within the next couple of days. Otherwise, I think we’re going to have to be a little more patient and may not see anything until after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

On the bright side for whomever pulls on #55 next, the most recent guy to wear it is former Yankees great Hideki Matsui. Godzilla wore the number on the recently completed MLB All-Star Series in Japan as first base coach for MLB All-Star Team Manager Don Mattingly.

Photo Credit: AP (Toru Takahashi)

Speaking of pitching, MLB.com posted a column this week about the potential 2019 rookies of the year for each team. For the Yankees, Justus Sheffield was the choice. Per the column written by Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Mike Rosenbaum for MLB.com, “The Yankees’ greatest need is starting pitching, and Sheffield should crack the Opening Day rotation.  His fastball, slider and changeup all can be three plus pitches, so it won’t be a shock if he’s New York’s second-best starter after Luis Severino”.  That’s probably a little more aggressive than my expectation heading into the new season. So long as he’s not included in a trade for a top starting pitcher, I don’t think Sheffield grabs a spot in the rotation out of Spring Training. I think CC Sabathia is holding the spot Sheffield will take when he’s ready. My expectation is the Yankees will acquire at least two starting pitchers this winter which will delay Top Sheff’s arrival. I hope Sheffield comes to Spring Training and absolutely dominates but I don not really think it will happen…yet. For the top four spots in the rotation, the Yankees need certainty and reliability. It’s great that CC Sabathia is back, but the team should not pin its 2019 hopes on his arm or his bum knee. He’ll be a year older and closer to the inevitable end of the line. I know it’s his last year, but there are no guarantees he’ll pitch like he did last season. He’ll be 39 next summer and he is not exactly in “Mariano Rivera-like” condition. Maybe he pitches solidly throughout the year, but then again, the end could come suddenly and without warning. The Yankees do not need more than one question mark in the rotation if they intend to de-throne the Champions.

Former Yankees managerial candidate Chris Woodward, recently named as the new manager for the Texas Rangers, has appointed a new pitching coach for the Rangers who has Yankee roots. Julio Rangel, most recently a minor league pitching coordinator for the San Francisco Giants, spent six years in the Yankees farm system from 1994 through 2000 but only made it as high as Double A. Still, he’s a Yankee by birth and I wish him the best for his first job as a Major League pitching coach.

I think November is probably my least favorite month as a blog writer. There really isn’t much happening and just lots of speculation, ranging reasonable to absolute ridiculousness. But it is the calm before the storm as we are only a few weeks away from all hell breaking loose with the Baseball Winter Meetings. January tends to be quiet but at least by that time, we’ll have shiny new toys on the roster we can talk about and get excited about the approaching call of Spring Training.

There are two MAJOR free agents available right now…genuine superstars and potential future Hall of Famers…but frankly, I am tired of hearing their names and refuse to write them with this post. If the Yankees sign one of them, great. If not, life goes on. I know one thing for sure, the Yankees roster in January will be much stronger than it is today. Until then, let’s enjoy some turkey and gravy, and spend quality time with our families.

As always, Go Yankees!

19 Days to Toronto…

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Joe Robbins)

No fear, Bird will fly…

Spring stats mean nothing. A few homers against mostly Double-A pitching and everyone felt that Miguel Andujar should be the starting third baseman. Now, I see that there are fans starting to grip about first baseman Greg Bird and his cold bat. Entering play today, Bird is batting .095 (2-for-21 with no home runs). Chill…when the season starts, Bird will be a competent and reliable bat in the Yankees batting order. If there is a certainty, Bird knows how to hit. Health is always questionable but when/if healthy, I fully expect Bird to get his share of big knocks.

Photo Credit: MLB.com

Poor Sonny Gray.  He pitched great against the Atlanta Braves yesterday, going 3 2/3 innings and allowing only one hit and no runs. But the Yankees were held to one run on Gary Sanchez’s solo home run in the 6th inning and lost to the Braves, 3-1. No run support as usual for the Tennessean. I know, spring games are meaningless, but I did think it was humorous as the guy never seems to get any runs. Of course, the Yankees offense did not have its full arsenal since this was a road game. Honestly, with the benefit of training camp with the Yankees and time to adjust to being a New York Yankee and all that entails, I am expecting this to be a big year for Sonny Gray. I think he’ll pitch closer to the ace he was with the Oakland A’s and not the pitcher we saw at the end of last season (which was still very good). I am excited to see what a full season of Gray in the rotation will bring. I am very confident it will yield great results.

Photo Credit: Getty Images (Abbie Parr)

Speaking of starting pitching, Jordan Montgomery, as expected, has been announced as the team’s fifth starter by Manager Aaron Boone. Monty has looked very good this Spring. In 3 games covering 8 2/3 innings, he is 1-0 with 1.04 ERA. He has only allowed five hits and one run, while striking out eleven batters. He has walked four. Armed with his trusty change-up, a pitch missing for much of last year, we should see an improved Montgomery this season. I would not surprise me if Monty ends up with better stats than Houston’s Gerrit Cole by the time the post-season begins.

Ivan Nova, who probably couldn’t crack the Yankees top five, was recently named as the Pittsburgh Pirates Opening Day starter. There is much to like about the potential of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery.

The Yankees play the New York Mets today at Steinbrenner Field. The game is at 1:05 pm Eastern. The scheduled starters are:

Brett Gardner, CF

Aaron Judge, RF

Giancarlo Stanton, LF

Brandon Drury, 3B

Tyler Austin, 1B

Austin Romine, C

Jace Peterson, DH

Ronald Torreyes, SS

Tyler Wade, 2B

The starting pitcher will be former Mets prospect Luis Cessa. After the recent Twitter wars between the Yankees and Mets, I hope the Yankees send the Mets home on a disappointing bus ride back to Port St Lucie.

Today’s game will be televised by the YES Network but not tomorrow’s game when the Yankees travel to Jupiter, FL (Giancarlo Stanton’s old stomping grounds) to play the Miami Marlins. The Yankees who are making the trip (like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez) will see old friend Starlin Castro. Stanton is not expected to make the trip. If he had, I would have been really disappointed about Sunday’s game not being televised. The Marlins travel to Steinbrenner Field a week from Sunday so that should be a good game to watch as Stanton most likely will be in the lineup. Hopefully Starlin makes the trip so those of us not fortunate enough to be in Florida can see him again.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports (Robert Deutsch)

The Yankees made a few more cuts yesterday. RHP Albert Abreu, slowed by recent appendectomy surgery, and Thairo Estrada, continuing to recover from the gunshot with bullet still lodged in his hip during a failed robbery attempt in late January, were reassigned to minor league camp. Johnny Lasagna aka Jonathan Loaisiga was also reassigned.

As I watch Shohei Otani attempt to both pitch and bat for the Los Angeles Angels, I am so glad that the Yankees are not dealing with the distraction. While I love Otani, the pitcher, I much prefer the bat of Giancarlo Stanton regardless of what the Japanese superstar is able to accomplish in Anaheim, CA this year.

Bummer…the Chicago White Sox eliminated the future possibility of their All-Garcia outfield when they released outfielder Willy Garcia. He had played a couple of times last year in a starting outfield that also featured fellow Garcia’s, Avisail and Leury. Willy was not expected to make this year’s White Sox squad. Thus endeth the All-Garcia outfield. I guess the Yankees need to acquire Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr so that they can feature an All-Aaron outfield. Ha, not really. Maybe Brett can just change his name to Aaron Gardner…

Go Yankees!

The Trials and Tribulations of a Young Club…

In life we do not always get what we want.  I wanted to take the three game series in Pittsburgh but it was not meant to be.  Former Yankees starter Ivan Nova set the tone from the start of Sunday’s game when he struck out the side in the first inning en route to Pittsburgh’s 2-1 victory over the Yankees.  The loss gave the series to the Pirates, 2 games to 1.  

Give Nova credit, he pitched very well against his former club.  He went seven strong innings, surrendering only four hits and one run.  The one run came courtesy of a Jacoby Ellsbury home run in the seventh inning.  For the season coming into the game, Nova had walked just three batters.  He only walked one on Sunday but the batter was a guy who hadn’t picked up a bat since his high school days (Yankees pitcher Jordan Montgomery). For the game, Nova struck out seven, picking up his second win of the year.

The Yankees had their chances to win the game.  They had a runner at third in the eighth with two outs, but Starlin Castro struck out.  In the ninth, they loaded the bases but the game came down to light-hitting shortstop Pete Kozma, who had pinch run for Chris Carter the prior inning.  After Aaron Hicks had struck out, Kozma came to bat with two outs, but grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game.  It’s unfortunate that Hicks was not able to come through as it placed the game in the hands of a career .221 hitter.  

Kudos to Jordan Montgomery.  After the game, he admitted that he didn’t have his best stuff.  Loading the bases in the first inning with no outs, he escaped with only one run across home plate.  He would go on to pitch six innings, allowing only two runs.   Pirates were able to get seven hits off him.  He walked two batters while striking out five.  The two walks proved costly as both batters eventually scored (the only runs the Pirates would score in the game).  Montgomery’s ability to throw a “quality game” despite not having his pitches speaks volumes about the heart of this pitcher.  I am anxious and excited for his next start. 

 Credit:  AP

Even though the Yankees lost the series to the Pirates, they were in all three games and could have won either of the losses.  As the younger guys gain more Major League experience and assuming the veterans continue to hit, the Yankees will begin to win these types of games with greater frequency.  The bench is going to look much stronger soon when Didi Gregorius returns and Ronald Torreyes retakes his utility role from Kozma.  

Sadly, Greg Bird was not able to get untracked in Pittsburgh.  His 0-for-3 day dropped his batting average to .104.  I still think he is very close so hopefully Fenway Park will ignite his bat.  If not, we’ll probably start to see a few more Chris Carter starts at sprinkled in at first in the coming days.  

I am glad that we’re headed back to American League parks so that Matt Holliday can knock the rust off and resume his role as the team’s designated hitter.  His offensive capability is too great to be limited to pinch-hitting in National League cities.  

The Yankees have today off and will begin a three game series in Boston tomorrow against the Red Sox.  The Red Sox are coming off a 6-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles  on Sunday that kept the Yankees 1 1/2 games behind the O’s in the AL East.   The Red Sox (11-8) are just a 1/2 game behind the Yankees (11-7).  The Orioles play this evening (at home against the Tampa Bay Rays) so they could extend their AL East lead to two games.  Or going the ‘glass is half full’ route, drop back to only a one game lead.  

The Yankees have a chance to make a statement in Boston.  While they may or may not win the series, they need to prove that they can hang with the Red Sox.  Boston won the head-to-head battle in 2016, 11 games to 8.  The Red Sox swept the first season series last year (April 29th to May 1st).  It would be great if the Yankees could return the favor.  My primary goal for the series is three competitive games with the Yankee hitters attacking the strong Boston rotation.  If they can get to the Boston bullpen early, I really like their chances.    The last run through the Yankees starting rotation was mostly a collection of off-nights so hopefully this run through the rotation will yield superior results. So begins the Battle of the AL East…

Have a great Monday!  Rest up and be ready to take charge on Tuesday!

Hal’s $3 Million Investment for Home Runs…

Credit:  Joe Sargent/Getty Images

What a difference a day makes!  

Chris “All he does is hit home runs”¹ Carter made my Saturday a fun day after Friday night’s loss.  Michael Pineda, like CC Sabathia the day before, did not have his best stuff and only lasted five innings.  I had felt prior to the game that Pineda needed to be at his best with talented young right-hander Jameson Taillon on the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but fortunately, the Yankees were able to get to Taillon (thanks Starlin!).  The game was tied at 5 in the eighth when Chris Carter came to the plate to pinch hit for Dellin Betances.  The inning had looked like it would be over quickly when the first two Yankee batters flied out (if Bird’s fly could have gone just a few more feet…).  But an error by Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier allowed catcher Austin Romine to reach base and shortstop Ronald Torreyes followed with a single.  Carter is paid to do one thing and against Pirates reliever Felipe Rivero, he did it.  His beautiful swing was met with “it is high, it is far, it is gone!”.  The Yankees had taken a commanding 8-5 lead.

The Yankees would score a couple more times that inning, thanks in large part to another error by the Pirates, but the signature moment was the ninth inning even though the game was already out of reach for the Pirates.  In what is becoming a typical day at the office, Aaron Judge got all of an Antonio Bastardo pitch to send the ball screaming 116 mph for a ‘no doubt about it’ home run.  When all was said and done, the ball had traveled 457 feet.  It is starting to feel like not a question of ‘if’ Judge can hit a ball 500 feet, but ‘when’.  Five batters, including Matt Holliday, have hit longer home runs this year (a total of five feet separates the leaders) but it’s only a matter of time before Judge takes charge of the Statcast leaderboard.  

Credit:  Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The Yankees won the game, 11-5 .  They head into today’s game with a chance to take the series against an old friend, Pirates starting pitcher Ivan Nova.  Jordan Montgomery, wearing Nova’s old jersey number, will take the mound for the Yankees.  

Despite the win, the Yankees failed to gain any ground on the Baltimore Orioles (12-4) who took another game from the Boston Red Sox.  So, the Yankees remain 1 1/2 games out of first with an 11-6 record.  I get the feeling that the Red Sox (10-8) will be playing like a wounded dog when the Yankees get to Fenway Park on Tuesday.  

I was glad to see manager Joe Girardi put Aaron Hicks in Saturday’s lineup.  He acknowledged that he needs to find ways to put Hicks’ hot bat into the game.  But really, left field is the only viable solution.  The $153 million man is actually producing in center (he’s still dead to me despite the .323 batting average) and Aaron Judge is becoming a marquee event in right.  Despite Chris Carter’s home run, I still think first base should stay exclusively with Greg Bird.  I know that he’s only hitting .111 after another 0-for-4 performance, but he seems to be hitting the ball well even if they are going for outs.  It is only a matter of time before the balls start falling in (or leaving the park).  I think he’s close to catching fire.  

I always keep an eye on former Yankees to see how they are doing.  I guess it is a Jay Buhner/Fred McGriff disorder, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for former Yankees prospect Rob Segedin.  Traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the deal that originally brought Ronald Torreyes to New York, the third baseman recently got another call up to the Dodgers when they placed former Yankees pitcher Rich Hill on the DL.  Two days later, Segedin was on the DL himself with a strained right big toe.  The taste of the Major Leagues can be so elusive for many and it certainly is for the 28-year-old former Yankees third round draft pick.

Credit:  David Crane/Southern California News Group

Have a great Sunday!  Let’s hope this is another Fun Day!  

 ¹A nod to Buddy Ryan’s infamous quote “All he does is catch touchdowns” in reference to Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter.  

The State of the Curious…

With the impending returns of shortstop Didi Gregorius and catcher Gary Sanchez within the next few weeks, the Yankees have some decisions to make.  Granted, Kyle Higashioka goes back down to AAA to become the starting catcher for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, retaining his seat at the table (the 40-Man roster).  But for Pete Kozma, the future is less certain.

There’s no reason to protect Kozma on the 40-man roster.  It is possible that the Yankees stash him at AAA when Didi returns for insurance, but, realistically, why?  As I type this post, shortstop Tyler Wade is the top hitter for the RailRiders with a .386 batting average (17-for-44 in 11 games).  He has also stolen 6 bags.  With Ronald Torreyes moving back to the super-sub role, Wade represents the greatest shortstop insurance going forward.  Therefore, if it’s my call, Kozma is DFA’d upon Didi’s return.  If he clears waivers, assign him to AAA.  If he is claimed, so be it.  It’s no great loss.  The downside to assigning Kozma to AAA is the fight for playing time with Wade.  So, I’d probably just cut him outright and send him on his way.

The decision then becomes what to do with the 40-man roster spot vacated by Kozma.  It probably doesn’t make sense to give it to Wade (not yet anyway).  I could see the Yankees giving it to a pitcher like Tyler Webb to be part of the bullpen shuttle throughout the summer.  The harder decisions about the 40-man roster will have to be made after the season and before the Rule 5 Draft in December.  For now, the roster decisions are about who can help us today, not tomorrow. 

I know that we didn’t quite make it, but there is something about a ten-game winning streak that I’ve always loved.  It cures all ails.  It is so fun to go more than a week without feeling the agony of defeat.  The Yankees missed making it ten-in-a-row by two games but it was still a fun ride.  The sad part is that with a few clutch hits here and there and no error by the aforementioned Kozma, the Yankees probably could have extended the win streak to nine.  But as they say, that’s the way the ball bounces, so I guess I’ll just have to look forward to the next streak to achieve my self-fulfilling objective for ten. 

Coming into the season, I really had my doubts about Luis Severino and his ability to be a quality major league starter.  I was starting to feel that his stuff played best in the bullpen.  At a quick glance, his stats do not tell the story.  He is 1-1 with a 4.05 ERA in three starts.  It sounds very pedestrian, but then you look at 20 innings pitched (an average of nearly 7 innings per game) with 27 strikeouts.  More impressive is his 0.80 WHIP (14 hits and 2 walks).  He is currently behind only five pitchers for the lowest WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched).  The only pitchers with better WHIP are Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins (0.45), James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners (0.57), Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros (0.62), Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers (0.70), and Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox (0.74).  Severino is in very good company.  I know it’s just three starts but this is a significant improvement over last year and it does appear to be sustainable.

Credit:  Noah K Murray/USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to the improved performances of both Severino and Michael Pineda, there is reason for optimism with every starter in the rotation.  This also supports that the Yankees could have another extended winning streak coming their way in the not-so-distant future.  Good times at Yankee Stadium. 

The Yankees signed LHP Nestor Oronel, 20, to a minor league deal.  The Pittsburgh Pirates released Oronel after three years in March.  My first thought was that Oronel is just fodder for minor league starting pitching depth.  But being a lefty and only 20 years of age (he doesn’t turn 21 until December) leads me to believe that he might be viewed as a reclamation project.  

Gleyber Torres has been placed on the 7-day Minor League DL with his shoulder injury.  Manager Joe Girardi said on Wednesday that he just has some inflammation in the shoulder and shouldn’t be down too long.  So, it does sound as though the team (and Torres) dodged a bullet, and he will be back in the Trenton Thunder lineup soon.

The Yankees returned to the win column with Wednesday night’s win over the Chicago White Sox, 9-1.  Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff, but he still went 7 innings, giving up only a single run.  He struck out 6 and walked two while scattering six hits.  The Yankees need this guy to be hitting on all cylinders, and he’s getting closer.  It was a great offensive night as every starter had a hit, and the team was homer happy with four.  

The Yankees only allowed former closer David Robertson to get one save opportunity as they took the three game set from the White Sox, two games to one.  At 10-5, the Yankees are percentage points behind the Baltimore Orioles (9-4).  They lead the third place Boston Red Sox by a game, although the Red Sox can cut the distance by a 1/2 game with a win today (an off day for the Yankees).  Since the Orioles also play today, the Yankees could either be 1/2 game behind the O’s at the end of the day or they could be the AL East Leaders.  

Friday, the Yankees head to Pittsburgh for a weekend series with the Pirates.  Like the White Sox, the Pirates feature a few former Yankees.  Catchers Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, and Pitchers Ivan Nova and Wade LeBlanc.  You could loosely throw Gerrit Cole into the category although he was never officially a Yankee.  He was a former top draft pick who never signed.   Although Nova wears Andy Pettitte’s number (46) for Pittsburgh, his first start against his former team will pit him against his old number (47) when he matches up with Jordan Montgomery on Sunday.  

The Yankees deserve this day off.  They’ve exceeded expectations and have been a very exciting team to watch.  It’s amazing to think it’s only going to get better when Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius are back and Greg Bird is hitting like we know he can.

Have a great Thursday!  One in row, Baby!  Let’s make it two on Friday!

Nova fires back to Pittsburgh…

But at least it wasn’t for BIG money…

Good for Ivan Nova to get his new contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  All things considered, I am still glad that he is an ex-Yankee.  Even though the Yankees are in desperate need of help in the starting rotation, I wasn’t looking for a reunion with the right-hander.

One headline I saw did strike me as odd.  It basically said that Nova had signed but not for big money.  3 years, $26 million.  Maybe it’s just me, but $26 million is definitely “big money”.  Okay, if Nova pitches for Pittsburgh like he did after the trade from the Yankees last year, he’ll be a bargain.  But still, receiving more than $8 million per year is still a heck of a lot of money for a historically inconsistent pitcher.

But the more telling headlines are about how great Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage is.  The so-called “Pitch Doctor” is getting the credit for Nova’s turnaround performance in Pittsburgh last year.  The underlying tone of the message is that the Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild is inadequate.  If Searage is so great, perhaps the Yankees should find a way to pry him from the Pirates.

I know that Rothschild has a good reputation, but at some point, someone has to be held accountable for the inconsistencies of the Yankees starters.  Masahiro Tanaka rebounded to have a very solid 2016 campaign but the work put up by Michael Pineda continues to be frustrating to say the least.  Luis Severino was dreadful as a starter.  I can’t say that I’ve ever looked at Rothschild as an “amazing” coach.  It would be nice to have one of those for a change.

Kevin Long is an excellent hitting coach.  Yet, when Yankees hitters couldn’t hit, he lost his job and now flourishes in Queens.  He remains better than the Yankees current array of hitting coaches.  I personally felt that Long was a better hitting coach than Rothschild is a pitching coach.  Long was held accountable and so too should Rothschild.  The Yankees have too much at stake with their young, unproven starters to fail miserably because they didn’t have the right guy at the helm.

–Scott